Metaphors and similes are an imaginative galaxy which greater minds than mine have explored. That doesn’t stop me gathering dazzling and original examples to enliven human exchange, expanding the choice of vigorous, beautiful ways to sharpen how we think, read, write and speak.

Stars like apples

Stars like apples

Distant stars appearing so close you could reach up your hand and pick them, like apples in a tree.  One of many lyrical descriptions in Golding's 1955 Good-bye to Ithaca, which traces an Odyssean journey he has dreamt of for decades. The Cyclades were well behind us...

A fog of hostility

A fog of hostility

Following the death of his father when he was a small boy, Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) went with his mother to live with his grandparents.  There he encountered what would now be described as a dysfunctional family with the terrifyingly fierce grandfather at war with his...

Remember, like it or not

Remember, like it or not

Maxim Gorky's (1868-1936) childhood was scored with regular beatings, some life-threatening, by his grandfather.  His resilience, emotional as much as physical, is humbling, underlined by his capacity to see his grandfather as a full, complex human being. Here, his...

A circular accent

A circular accent

Seamus Heaney describes a circle to convey the sounds of the Ulster accent, drawing an image of tangential consonants and rolling vowels.  Lovely.Our tongue strikes the tangent of the consonant rather more than it rolls the circle of the vowel. For a rich selection of...

The honey of knowledge

The honey of knowledge

This is from the first of a trilogy of memoirs by Maxim Gorky (1868-1936), whose life began in Tsarist Russia and ended in the Soviet Union.  His childhood was marked by inhuman cruelty and superhuman kindness, and yet he managed to survive it without being alienated...

As healthy as …

As healthy as …

A bracing, surprising simile for presenting something as a picture of health and wholesomeness.  Here it is about reading material, but it could apply to anything else. Our Boys appeared regularly, a cultural antidote with official home backing, healthy as a Christian...

Someday the history of metaphor will be written and we shall at last grasp all the truths and misconceptions in which this intensely speculative subject abounds.  

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 45

As neat and fierce as …

Something refreshing about this simile, beginning with the surprising combination of 'neat' and 'fierce' and then the even more surprising 'fairy castle'.  But indeed, they are neat with their expected...

Rich with rust

An unusual simile for rust, though of course, once seen, it seems natural. A beech hedge in winter has an intense and often uniform rust colour. 

'......

Lichen like cracked lacquer

I imagine here the wetted orange lichen that grows flat on rocky surfaces, like tiny star-bursts of gold.

'The lichen glows like cracked lacquer on the cliffs.'

See...

Round as…

Round as a moon isn't surprising, but the addition of the spring, makes it richer and fuller and a more resonant metaphor.

See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich...

Like a bone in the throat

A vivid simile to describe the bother that mighty Austria was for Prussia. This is from a trilogy of novels by the Hungarian writer Lajos Zilahy (1891-1974), tracing the decline...

Blue as deep as…

It seems some newborns have blue eyes even if later they take on other hues.  Colour is one of the most slippery elements to describe, so I like this reference...

As healthy as …

A bracing, surprising simile for presenting something as a picture of health and wholesomeness.  Here it is about reading material, but it could apply to anything else. 

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Creased with grief

May your face, and those of people you love, never be creased into grief-maps.   What a vivid image of sorrow.

‘He shook his head and his face creased, a...

As soft as …

Having never even noticed the buds of the willow, this simile for softness and greyness struck me. How observant of Williamson to store this away as a description of otter's...

To listen as to a recurrent music

What a beautiful description of listening out for someone's voice.   Despite Adam's listening for her voice so, it doesn't yet occur to him that he might fall in love with...

As voluptuous as…

I like the double surprise of this one.  I wouldn't easily associate clouds with fruit, nor 'voluptuous', though cumulus clouds can be plumply Rubenesque. Now, which summer fruits qualify as...

How many lifetimes does it take to learn the facts of life?  

(And how long do you have to live to recover from them…?) 

Is it fact that helps us recover – or is it metaphor?  

Source: Molly Peacock,The Paper Garden (London: Bloomsbury, 2012), p. 63 – click here for the bestellar review of this glorious book.

The thinker, with his metaphors, will illuminate the external world through intangible ideas that for him are intimate and immediate.   

Source: Jorge Luis Borges, On Writing, Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2010, p. 6

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